MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The coldest temperature in the lower 48 happened in Embarrass Thursday morning when folks there registered a temperature of 41 below zero.
“It’s interesting how cold it can get up there,” said Pete Boulay, the assistant state climatologist. “And it’s a lot different than here in the Twin Cities, that’s for sure.”
In the metro, residents use a regular mercury thermometer, and it goes to about negative 40. But in Embarrass, they have to use alcohol thermometers that go down to negative 65. One observer has a thermometer that goes as low as 80 below zero.
But why is Embarrass so cold? After call, it’s about 100 miles south of International Falls, which only hit a low Thursday of negative 36.
“[Embarrass is] in a low spot, in a swampy area in a river valley,” Boulay said.
The town of 600 is located in a low basin of the Embarrass River Valley.
The colder the air, the more dense it is. So it slides down into that basin and creates a cold pool of air.
“It doesn’t take much elevation to get colder, even 10 or 15 feet,” Boulay said. “The cold air just kind of pools there and that area is kind of a cold spot. There are other towns in the vicinity that are on par with being as cold as Embarrass, like Tower.”
Tower officially holds the record for the coldest state temperature of 60 below zero in 1996.
On that day in Embarrass, the thermometers malfunctioned. However, the town does boast an unofficial cold temp of 64 below zero.